The Key to Digital Transformation

Lately I have spoken to lots of organisations that are going through and consultants that are advising on a digital transformation journeys. It is obviously a huge challenge for any executive heading a company that was not born digital and a goldmine out there for consultants that know a thing or two about the business of digital.

In this post I wanted to highlight some work done by BCG and Google which focuses on the transformation of marketing departments but I think can be used as a base for any digital transformation journey. I have used this to change the way we do marketing at Mynewsdesk but if you are a senior exec in need of a digital transformation roadmap this is a good place to start.

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 11.24.49

Building The Right Team, Organisation & Culture

Ever since I devoured Jim Collins “Good to Great” back in 2002 I have always been a big fan of the “Who before What” concept. It doesn’t matter what ambitions and grand visions you have, without a capable team that can execute on those plans they will forever remain just that.

One of the first tasks in any digital transformation is to build a team with the right capabilities that can lead you forward. This may often mean conducting quite a frightening capability assessment of you current resources and often you will find a gap which you will need to address in terms of either internal training and skill development but most likely identifying areas where you need to bring in new talent.

One thing important to ensure around human capital is that you have a team that possesses or has the ability to develop a “growth” versus a “fixed mindset”. I often find that people that have worked in large organisations for many years and have been somewhat institutionalised have unwittingly developed a fixed mindset.

If you have these people on your team your first move should be to make them aware of this and discuss whether they can change in light of what is demanded with the digital world.  If that change is not possible to achieve, remove them.


Then there is the technology piece. It is vital to assess and invest in the right technology to support your new team. This technology will not only be able to execute your plans but more importantly give you the capabilities to measure your actions and take corrective actions along the way. This is a challenge. In marketing alone the number of vendors and possibilities have grown hugely over recent years as Scott Brinker’s 2017 Martech landscape clearly show with 5,000 suppliers unlike the 150 that were on the same chart 6 years ago.

At Mynewsdesk in marketing alone we use 27 tools to keep the marketing show on the road and what is important to realise is that some of these vendors will be core parts of your stack which will be used for years, typically your CRM and marketing automation provider but other technologies should be taken in and may only be useful for certain periods.

Finally is is important to design the right organisation and develop a forward thinking culture as you work as a team. The right organisation for me is all about accountability and mandate. Again in may traditional companies the complex organisational structures and matrix organisations that have grown up and are often used to protect executives little empires are a real barrier to digital transformation.

In terms of a forward thinking culture , this is where the use of agile methods and hypothesis driven execution can and should be implemented. I would encourage any leader that wants to thrive in the digital era to do as much reading around both agile and LEAN methodologies as possible. Here are the 5 key benefits to agile working as far as I see it.

Screen Shot 2017-05-18 at 08.10.03

Funding the Journey

Your organisations digital transformation will cost you. Be prepared for that and make your business case. In the longterm it will probably reduce cost, make your company much more scalable and protect it from competition that is currently much faster than you.

However there will probably be an initial increased investment in either talent, technology or new ways of working. I know one media company CEO who had to go to her board and insist that for a period of 5 years 10% of revenues should be invested in digital transformation should they want to survive.

She succeeded in making this case and her organisation is now thriving because of it. A few years earlier there had been a question mark over the longterm survival of the company as digital change threatened their existing business. The key success factor here was creating cross functional team of technology, editorial and commercial talent to create new product and services.

Be prepared to make the case using industry benchmarks, a clear and costed plan with the associated benefits it will bring but don’t be afraid to paint the doomsday scenario. This is often important in any change management task but use it with caution. As in politics much more can be achieved with a vision of hope and positivity versus a threat and fear based approach.

Winning in the Medium Term

Once you have the organisational and financial backing for a digital transformation, in order to keep momentum and trust in the change you are leading it is so important to show results.

I talk to many of my colleagues about the importance of quick wins in any new employment and it is just the same in any transformation agenda. You decide what your wins will be. They may be hiring wins, attitude changes in the employment surveys or they could be more tangible like penetration into new customer segments, increased velocity of sales, leads, a reduction of costs in certain areas or increased customer satisfaction.

At Mynewsdesk in marketing it was all about executing more efficiently around a defined customer acquisition funnel and committing the marketing organisation to a number, firstly in pipeline generation and then in sales.

What ever your wins are; define them, communicate them and follow up intensively to ensure you retain trust and build momentum in your digital transformation.

Developing the Strategy

Having the right strategy remains a key to any business success … digital or not. Knowing how you are going to win in an increasingly competitive world where barriers to entry and lower than ever before is crucial.

Strategy for me is still about what George Tovsitga calls finding your “Unique Competing Space”, the combination of customer needs, competitor offerings, your companies capabilities and the external environment and market that surrounds these. Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 09.14.51

For all you strategy wonks out there I would say that whilst there is much to be learnt around Michael Porter’s strategic thinking on differentiation, cost and focus succeeding in the digital world needs you to think more along the lines of Henry Mintzberg, the master of emergent strategy. Better still you should read and implement the work of Kim and Mauborgne and define a Blue Ocean Strategy for your business that creates your uncontested market space and makes the competition irrelevant.

Assuming you have done all that whilst implementing your strategy a key to its success is the identification of which data you are going to use to steer that strategy and what KPIs you are going to follow to assess whether you need to, stay on the same course, change direction or completely revisit your strategic assumptions. Just like the wins make sure this data strategy and KPIs are clearly documented, communicated and followed up.

So there you have it my, or in all fairness Google and Boston Consulting Groups, keys to digital transformation. Building the right team organisation and culture, funding the journey, creating wins in the medium term and developing your strategy. Now you have the roadmap just get out there and do it.

The one quote I will leave you with is from the master of strategy.  He has won a war so with these words of advice so should you. Good luck.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 09.36.34.png

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s